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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Rose by Another Name....


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Something about lilacs here

Semolina and Cornmeal Bread-Cake

What is Bread-cake, you ask. I actually don't know :) I just invented the name, after baking something that's a bit sweet and savory, something like bread, and cake at the same time.

This is made of cornmeal (I used the stuff made for polenta) and semolina, and wholemeal flour. The result was a really crumbly (due to the coarse semolina and cornmeal) and feel-good baked goodie. Smelled awesome too. There is a considerable amount of baking powder to help lift all these things up.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup coarse semolina
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
100g melted butter, cooled
a good glug of olive oil

Lightly butter a 9" springform baking tin and set aside. Pre-heat oven to 190C.

Mix cornmeal and buttermilk and let sit for a 10-15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix semolina, sugar, wholemeal flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk well.

Add the egg and olive oil to the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture and mix well. Add flours, mix until combined (careful not to overmix). Add butter and mix just until well incorporated.

Pour onto baking tin and even the top (give it a big tap on top of the counter).

Bake for 30-35min or until a skewer comes out clean and edges are brown.

The result - crisp top, crumbly inside.

Breakfast Pizza

No it's not from some delivered pizza the night before, conveniently tucked under the sofa for easy access. Think of it as a flat bread cheese sandwich with some tomatoes and fresh parsley.

This pizza dough recipe requires no proofing - so you don't have to leave it to rise for a couple of hours. Quick and easy. Thin and crispy. Yum.

This makes 2 thin crust pizza bases (around 33cm in diameter)

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 225C. If using a pizza stone, best to place it in the oven so that it heats up together with the oven.

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Add to the flour, mix in the salt, and mix until you get a nice ball of dough. Knead until smooth. Divide into 2 balls. Roll into desired shape. Add desired toppings - this time it was 1 tomato from a tin, crushed and spread across the crust, topped with shredded tasty cheese, grated parmesan, a bit of salt and cracked black pepper.

After all these, the oven should be hot enough. Place the pizza on the pizza stone (if using) or just place in a baking sheet and bake for around 12-15 min, until the sides are golden brown and the cheese has melted.

I prefer adding the chopped fresh parsley last just for a fresher flavor.

Serve with tabasco! And a mug of hot coffee!

Previous pizzas here and here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Flower Power 3

A couple more 'unknown beauties' continue to sprout all over the place, a pleasant surprise, as always!

Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas were in town in early October and pretty happy to be part of the gig. There were some old hits (like Don't Phunk with my Heart) and new ones from their recently launched album The E-n-d. The three-time Grammy Award winning group made another fantastic performance - I particularly liked on the levitating platform as he dj's for the huge party.

One of the members is half Filipino (mother is Filipino, dad is African American).

Lemon Pickles

The lemon tree is being very kind to us, the first batch of lemons were preserved by the other chef using an Indian recipe based on mustard oil, and they were really yummy. Just the right amount of heat, great texture and wonderful fresh taste. Never mind that I had to bake a couple of breads afterwards to neutralize the smell in the house (due to the strong mustard oil) - it was well worth it.

Now there is a second batch of fruit and this time, this recipe is from a British-Indian colleague - using vinegar, turmeric powder, some fresh chilies and several slices of fresh ginger. Couldn't go wrong in preserving something with this base! Very simple too.

This was made today and will be ready 3 weeks later (after a bit of daily shaking!)

Cut 4 lemons into pieces (leave the peel on), put into a jar. Add vinegar (I just used white vinegar) so that it comes up to half the level of the lemons

Then :
add 1 large tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

half a teaspoon of red chilli powder

This is optional - I added 5 whole green chillies and 6 slices of fresh
ginger, skin left on

cover, give an initial shake, and leave for 3 weeks - shake everyday!

Watch this space!

Bicol Express

The chili is actually a berry, which is then culinarily used as a vegetable (e.g. capsicums) or as spice (like cayenne pepper). Capsaicin is what gives it intensity, measured in Scoville heat units. As a reaction to capsaicin, the body increases heart rate, releases some endorphins and perspiration. That's why it's believed to be good for you. Either way I don't see any harm in chilies (if handled properly! Those hands spiced with chilies and rubbed against the eyes - or some other sensitive body part - can be really really nasty. Not that it has happened to me. Err.)

Now if you really want your food spicy, then this dish is for you - a simple Filipino recipe made of long green chilies, garlic, onions and coconut cream. What better way to celebrate spiciness than make the chilies the real obvious star of the dish itself!

This is called Bicol Express. Bicol is a region in the Philippines known for its very spicy dishes, and "Bicol Express" is the name of the train service that goes to the region. There are various versions to the history of this dish, as well as the recipe itself, but one of the stories say that the dish was named such because people who enjoyed the dish during the early times heard the train leave while they were eating it - hence the nickname.

Move over chili con carne, and other spicy curries!

As I mentioned there are various ways on making this, but my version is based on how I remember my mother's cooking. I am sure I will never be a better cook than her, so I hope that I gave this dish some justice!

15 pcs long green chilies, chopped (the filipino "siling panigang" is light green in color)
400g pork, cut into cubes (i used pork chops because they had a bit of fat)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 tin coconut cream (i just used 165ml + 80ml water) - depends on how saucy or dry you would like your dish to be

Some people add ginger, or tomatoes, or some other vegetables like long green beans.

Anyway - for this version :

Chop chilies. Remove the membrane and seeds if you prefer to decrease the heat.

guess what i opted for

Brown the pork (my mom has a little technique - she would slightly boil the pork in a bit of water, until it reduces, dries, and just leaves the pork to render on its own fat - so no need to add extra oil. Boiling the pork makes it a bit softer to bite, but it would be crispy on the outside due to the frying process). She would set the pork aside to one part of the pan and saute the garlic and onions on the oil the pork had left behind. This reduces the need to do this on a separate pan - less clean up too!

nanay's technique revealed!
(pretty sure this would have been a common practice for other pinoy moms :D)

When onion is translucent, add the chilies and the coconut cream and water. Let simmer, until sauce thickens and the chili wilts a bit.

Serve with hot steamed white rice. And maybe a box of tissue on the side. And a beer perhaps.

Guess where that warm feeling is from. :)

Homemade Marshmallows

As one of my top ten comfort foods for all times I just had to know how marshmallows are made. And while there were different approaches to making marshmallows I decided to take the not so easy route and followed David Lebovitz' recipe, which, he said, he picked up while studying confectionery in Paris.

Shouldn't turn out bad then! (?!)

To make this you would need :

2 envelopes powdered gelatin
1/2 cup and 1/3 cup cold water
1 cup plain white sugar (or caster sugar)
1/3 cup light corn syrup (I used glucose)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
about 1/2 cup powdered (or confectionery) sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch, sifted together

big bowl (grease-free, egg whites and fat don't mix well)
candy thermometer

Dust with a sifter a baking sheet evenly and completely with some (not all) of the cornstarch mixture.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 cup of cold water to dissolve and soften. Set aside.

Fit candy thermometer onto a saucepan, and mix the sugar, corn syrup (or glucose in this case) with 1/3 cup of water. Place over medium-to-high heat.

the gooey thing is stray glucose that dripped on the thermometer. oops.

(This is where the multitasking begins as far as I understood the recipe!)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the egg whites and beat on low speed until frothy. Add the pinch of salt.

When the syrup reaches between 210 and 220 degrees, increase the speed of the mixer and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy (do not overbeat). Timing is of the essence!

Keep an eye out on the syrup while beating the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 245 degrees, and while the mixer is whipping, pour the syrup into the whites. Pour so that the syrup does not fall on the whip, otherwise much of the syrup will splatter onto the sides of the bowl, not into the egg whites. (basically making an italian meringue)

guess i didn't follow instructions then - had lifted the beaters a bit and it splashed on the sides of the bowl. hehe.

Scrape the gelatin and water into the pan that you used for the syrup and swirl it to dissolve (it should have enough residual heat from the syrup to dissolve it). Pour the liquified gelatin into the whites as they are whipping. Add the vanilla and continue to whip for 5 minutes.

Use a spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours or overnight, uncovered.

Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the marshmallows into pieces and toss in the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture. Put the marshmallows in a colander or strainer and shake off the excess cornstarch mixture.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

I tried to take some (half of the batch) the next day but the powdered sugar coating sort of 'melted' on top, but it was very soft and fluffy and very dreamy. A couple of days later the other half of marshmallows left to dry some more turned out better. I think I just didn't give them enough time to dry out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

White Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranate

I just had to get one of those pomegranates - bright red things, who wouldn't be enticed?

Pomegranate - from "pom" meaning 'apple' and "granatus" meaning 'seeded', is rich in vitamin C and is quite tart. It is used on various savory dishes, from salads to soups. The ancient Egyptians fermented its juice to make wine, but it is also used to make grenadine. Only thing is just it's a bit tricky to get the arils - those red juicy sacs - out of peel and white membranes. The juice can stain everything on their sight, so best to be careful.

get the pomegranate and line the counter where you will be working on. coz it will be messy.

cut crown and bottom part. score (not cut all the way through) the peel into 4 segments and submerge the fruit into a bowl filled with water

break the fruit into quarters (which should be easy because you've scored it beforehand!) the arils should sink and the membranes should float. remove the arils from the membranes. drain the arils. for this recipe get around 2 tablespoons of the arils and gently smash it with a mortar to release its juices.

Melt 80 g of white chocolate with a teaspoon of butter in a bain marie or in the microwave. When the chocolate is fully melted, whisk in 1 tablespoon of milk. In a separate bowl whip 1 egg white until soft peaks form, then fold into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the 'smashed' pomegranate bits.

(I would have made this with cream but I ran out!)

Spoon into tall shot glasses and chill in the fridge for about an hour, or until set. Top with more arils before serving. This made 4 shot glasses.

Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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